Emotional and Social Development in Adolescence

Erikson was the first to recognize identity as the major personality
achievement of adolescence and as a crucial step toward
becoming a productive adult
 Constructing an identity involves defining who you are, what you
value, and the directions you choose to pursue in life
 Erikson believed that teenagers in complex societies experience
an identity crisis, a temporary period of distress followed by
settling on values and goals
 Identity versus role confusion
If young people’s earlier conflicts were resolved negatively or if society
limits their choices to ones that do not match their abilities and desires,
they may appear shallow, directionless, and unprepared for the
challenges of adulthood
Current theorists agree that questioning of values and priorities is
necessary for a mature identity
But they see this process not as a “crisis” for most young people, but
simply a process of exploration followed by commitment
During adolescence, the young person’s vision of the
self becomes more complex, well-organized, and
Compared with younger children, adolescents have
more or less positive feelings about an increasing
variety of aspects of the self
Over time, they form a balanced, integrated
representation of their strengths and limitations
Changes in self-concept and self-esteem set the
stage for developing a unified personal identity
By the end of middle childhood, children can describe
themselves in terms of personality traits
 In early adolescence, they unify separate traits (“smart” and
“talented”) into more abstract descriptors (“intelligent”)
But, these generalizations are not interconnected and are often
› Ex. 12-14 year olds might mention opposing traits like “intelligent” and
“dork,” “shy,” and “outgoing”
› These disparities result from the expansion of adolescents’ social world,
which creates pressure to display different selves in different contexts
From middle to late adolescence, cognitive changes enable
teenagers to combine their traits into an organized system
 Compared with school-age children, teenagers place more
emphasis on social virtues, such as being friendly, kind, and
Traits that reflect a concern with being viewed positively by others
Among older adolescents, personal and moral values are key themes
As young people revise their views of themselves to include
enduring beliefs and plans, they move toward the unity of self
that is central to identity development
In adolescence, young people add several new dimensions of
self-evaluation: close friendship, romantic appeal, and job
 For most young people, self-esteem rises, and they see
themselves as more mature, capable, and attractive than
Positive relationships among self-esteem, valuing of various
activities, and success at those activities strengthen
Ex. Academic self-esteem is a powerful predictor of teenagers’
judgments of the importance and usefulness of school subjects,
willingness to exert effort, achievement, and eventual career choice
Across SES and ethnic groups, individuals with mostly favorable
self-esteem profiles tend to be well adjusted, sociable, and
But, individual differences in self-esteem also become increasingly stable
in adolescence
Low self-esteem in all areas is linked to adjustment difficulties
Authoritative parenting and encouragement from teachers
predict high self-esteem in adolescence
Adolescents whose parents are critical and insulting have unstable and
generally low self-esteem
Researchers evaluating progress in identity development
have constructed 4 identity statuses on the basis of 2 key
criteria from Erikson’s theory: exploration and commitment
› Identity moratorium – exploration without having reached
› Identity achievement – commitment to values, beliefs, and goals
following a period of exploration
› Identity foreclosure – commitment in the absence of exploration
› Identity diffusion – an apathetic state characterized by lack of
both exploration and commitment
Some young people remain in one identity status, while
others experience many status transitions
› Most young people move from “lower” statuses (foreclosure or
diffusion) to “higher” ones (moratorium or achievement)
› This occurs between mid-teens to mid-20s
The pattern often varies across identity domains, such as
sexual orientation, vocation, and religious values
Attending college promotes identity development by
providing students with expanded opportunities to
explore career options and life styles
› After college, graduates often sample a broad range of
life experiences before choosing a life course
Individuals who go to work immediately after high
school settle on a self-definition earlier than collegeeducated youths
› But, they are at risk for identity diffusion if they encounter
difficulty realizing their occupational goals because of
lack of training or vocational choices
Adolescents of both sexes typically make progress on
identity concerns before experiencing genuine
intimacy in relationships
Identity achievement and moratorium are
both psychologically healthy routes to a
mature self-definition
› Adolescents in moratorium resemble identity-
achieved individuals in using an active, informationgathering cognitive style to make personal decisions
and solve problems (i.e. they seek out relevant
information, evaluate it carefully, and critically reflect
on and revise their views)
› Young people who are identity achieved or
exploring have higher self-esteem, feel more in
control of their own lives, are more likely to view
school and work as feasible avenues for realizing
aspirations, and are more advanced in moral
Adolescents stuck in either foreclosure or diffusion are
passive in the face of identity concerns and have
adjustment difficulties
› Foreclosed individuals display a dogmatic, inflexible cognitive style,
internalizing the values and beliefs of parents and others without
deliberate evaluation and they resist information that threatens
their position
 Most fear rejection by people on whom they depend for affection
and self-esteem
› Long-term diffused individuals typically use a diffuse-avoidant
cognitive style in which they avoid dealing with personal decisions
and problems and, instead, allow current situational pressures to
dictate their reactions
 Taking an “I don’t care” attitude, they entrust themselves to luck or
fate and tend to go along with the crowd
 As a result they experience time management and academic
difficulties and, of all young people are the most likely to use and
abuse drugs
 Often their apathy leads to a sense of hopelessness about the future
 Least mature identity status
Adolescent identity formulation is the
beginning of a life long, dynamic process that
is influenced by many factors related to either
the individual or the context
Identity status is both a cause and a
consequence of personality
› Adolescents who assume that absolute truth is
always attainable tend to be foreclosed
› Those who doubt that they will ever feel certain
about anything are more often identity-diffused
› Those who appreciate that they can use rational
criteria to choose among alternatives are likely to be
in a state of moratorium or identity achievement
Identity development is enhanced for
teenagers whose families serve as a “secure
base” from which they can confidently move
out into the wider world
› Adolescents who feel attached to their parents but
also feel free to voice their own opinions tend to be
in a state of moratorium or identity achievement
› Foreclosed teenagers usually have close bonds with
parents but lack opportunities for healthy separation
› Diffused young people report the lowest levels of
parental support and of warm, open communication
Interaction with diverse peers encourages adolescents to
explore values and possible roles
 Schools and communities offering varied opportunities for
exploration also support identity development
Supportive experiences include classrooms that promote high-level
thinking, teachers who encourage low-SES students to go to college, and
vocational training that immerses young people in the real world of adult
Culture strongly influences an aspect of mature identity not
captured by the identity status approach: constructing a sense
of self-continuity despite major personal changes
In a study of continuity of identity in Native-Canadian and culturalmajority 12-20 year olds
 Most cultural-majority adolescents described an enduring personal
essence, a core self that remained the same despite change
 Native-Canadian youth took an interdependent approach, emphasizing a
constantly transforming self resulting from new roles and relationships
Societal forces are responsible for the special challenges faced
by gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths and by ethnic minority
adolescents in forming a secure identity
For minority adolescents, ethnic identity – a sense of ethnic-group
membership and attitudes and feelings associated with membership – is
central to the quest for identity
In many immigrant families, adolescents’ commitment to obeying their
parents and fulfilling family obligations lessens the longer the family has
been in the immigrant-receiving country
 This can induce acculturative stress – distress resulting from conflict between
the minority and the host culture
Adolescents whose families have taught them the history, traditions,
values, and language of their ethnic group and who frequently interact
with same-ethnicity peers are more likely to forge a favorable ethnic
identity, which is associated with higher self-esteem
Forming a bicultural identity – by exploring and adopting values from both
the adolescent’s subculture and the dominant culture, is very beneficial
Cognitive development and expanding
social experiences permit adolescents to
better understand larger social structures
› Societal institutions and law-making systems that
govern moral responsibilities
As their grasp of social arrangements
expands, adolescents construct new ideas
about what should be done when the
needs and desires of people conflict
 As a result, they move toward increasingly
just, fair, and balanced solutions to moral
Piaget’s work on the moral judgment of children inspired
Lawrence Kohlberg’s more comprehensive cognitivedevelopmental theory of moral understanding
Using a clinical interviewing procedure, Kohlberg presented a
sample of 10-16 year old boys with hypothetical moral dilemmas
– stories presenting a conflict between two moral values
For each dilemma, Kohlberg asked participants what the main
actor should do and why, then followed them longitudinally,
reinterviewing them at intervals over the next 20 years
The well-known “Heinz dilemma” pits the value of obeying the law (e.g.,
not stealing) against the value of human life (e.g., saving a dying person)
Kohlberg emphasized that moral maturity depends on the way
an individual reasons about the dilemma, NOT on the content of
the response (e.g., whether or not to steal)
The “Heinz dilemma”
› In Europe a woman was near death from
cancer. There was one drug the doctors thought
might save her. A druggist in the same town had
discovered it, but he was charging ten times
what the drug cost him to make. The sick
woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he
knew to borrow the money, but he could only
get together half of what it cost. The druggist
refused to sell the drug for less or let Heinz pay
later. So Heinz became desperate and broke
into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife.
Should Heinz have done that? Why or why not?
Kohlberg organized moral development
into 3 levels, each with 2 stages
 Kohlberg believed that moral
understanding is promoted by:
› Actively grappling with moral issues and
noticing weaknesses in one’s current
› Gains in perspective taking, which permit
individuals to resolve moral conflicts in more
effective ways
The preconventional level – morality is externally controlled; children
accept the rules of authority figures and judge actions by their
Stage 1: The punishment and obedience orientation: Children at this stage
focus on fear of authority and avoidance of punishment as reasons for
behaving morally
 Prostealing: “if you let your wife die, you will be blamed for not spending the
money to help her and there’ll be an investigation of you and the druggist for
your wife’s death”
 Antistealing: “you shouldn’t steal the drug because you’ll be caught and sent to
jail if you do. If you do get away, [you’d be scared that] the police would catch
up with you at any minute.”
Stage 2: The instrumental purpose orientation: Children view right action as
flowing from self-interest and understand reciprocity as equal exchange of
 Prostealing: “If Heinz decides to risk jail to save his wife, it’s his life he’s risking; he
can do what he wants with it. And the same goes for the druggist; it’s up to him
to decide what he wants to do.”
 Antistealing: “Heinz is running more risk than it’s worth [to save a wife who is near
The conventional level – individuals regard conformity to social rules as
important because they believe that actively maintaining the current
social system ensures positive relationships and societal order
Stage 3: The “good boy-good girl” orientation, or the morality of interpersonal
cooperation: The individual obeys rules in order to promote societal harmony,
based on an understanding of ideal reciprocity and on the capacity to view a
2-person relationship from the vantage point of an impartial, outside observer
 Prostealing: “no one will think you’re bad if you steal the drug, but your family will
think you’re an inhuman husband if you don’t. If you let your wife die, you’ll never
be able to look anyone in the face again.”
 Antistealing: “It isn’t just the druggist who will think you’re a criminal, everyone else
will too. You’ll feel bad thinking how you’ve brought dishonor on your family and
Stage 4: The social-order-maintaining orientation: The individual takes societal
laws into account and believes that rules must be enforced evenhandedly, and
members of society must uphold rules to maintain societal order
 Prostealing: “Heinz has a duty to protect his wife’s life; it’s a vow he took in
marriage. But it’s wrong to steal, so he would have to take the drug with the idea
of paying the druggist for it and accepting the penalty for breaking the law later.”
 Antistealing: “Even if his wife is dying, it’s still Heinz’s duty as a citizen to obey the
law. If everyone starts breaking the law in a jam, there’d be no civilization, just
crime and violence.”
The postconventional or principled level – define morality in
terms of abstract principles and values that apply to all
situations and societies
› Stage 5: The social contract orientation: Individuals view laws and
rules as flexible instruments for furthering human purposes and will
freely follow them when they are consistent with individual rights and
the interests of the majority
 Prostealing: “Although there is a law against stealing, the law wasn’t
meant to violate a person’s right to life. If Heinz is prosecuted for
stealing, the law needs to be reinterpreted to take into account
situations in which it goes against people’s natural right to keep on
› Stage 6: The universal ethical principle orientation: At this highest
stage, right action is defined by self-chosen ethical principles of
conscience that are valid for all people, regardless of law and social
 Prostealing: “It doesn’t make sense to put respect for property above
respect for life itself. [People] could live together without private
property at all. Respect for human life and personality is absolute and
accordingly [people] have a mutual duty to save one another from
Kohlberg’s original research and other longitudinal studies
provide the most convincing evidence for his stage
 With few exceptions, individuals move through the first 4
stages in the predicted order, at a slow and gradual pace
› Reasoning at Stages 1 and 2 decreases in early adolescence
› Stage 3 increases through midadolescence and then declines
› Stage 4 reasoning rises over the teenage years and, by early
adulthood, is the typical response
Very few people move beyond stage 4 to the
postconventional stages
› In fact, postconventional morality is so rare that no clear
evidence exists that Kohlberg’s stage 6 actually follows stage 5
› This is a key challenge to Kohlberg’s theory: if people must reach
stages 5 and 6 to be considered truly morally mature, few
individuals anywhere would be considered truly moral
A newer view of Kohlberg’s stages views moral maturity as a revision of
stages 3 and 4
Real-life conflicts often elicit moral reasoning below a person’s actual
capacity because they involve practical considerations and mix
cognition with intense emotion
These stages are not “conventional,” based on social conformity as Kohlberg
Rather, they require profound moral constructions, an understanding of ideal
reciprocity as the basis for relationships (stage 3) and for widely accepted moral
standards, set forth in rules and laws (stage 4)
In this view, “postconventional” morality is a highly reflective endeavor limited to
few individuals
Kohlberg’s moral dilemmas do not evoke the emotional aspect involved in real-life
conflicts, thus allowing individuals to use their upper limits of moral thought because
they allow reflection without the interference of personal risk
Like Piaget’s cognitive stages, Kohlberg’s moral stages do not develop
in a neat stepwise fashion, rather they are loosely organized and
Because of the influence of situational factors on moral judgments, people draw on
a range of moral responses that vary with context
Carol Gilligan and others have argued that Kohlberg’s theory,
formulated on the basis of interviews with males, does not
adequately represent the morality of girls and women
Gilligan believes that feminine morality emphasizes an “ethic of care”
that Kohlberg’s system devalues
› According to Gilligan, a concern for others is a different but no less valid
basis for moral judgment than a focus on impersonal rights
Many studies have tested Gilligan’s claim that Kohlberg’s
approach underestimates the moral maturity of females, and
most do not support it.
On hypothetical dilemmas as well as everyday moral problems,
adolescent and adult females display reasoning at the same stage as
their male agemates and often at a higher stage
› These findings suggest that although Kohlberg emphasized justice rather
than caring as the highest moral ideal, his theory taps both sets of values
Still, Gilligan does make a powerful claim that research on moral
development has been limited by too much attention to rights
and justice (a “masculine” ideal) and too little to care and
responsiveness (a “feminine” ideal)
As adolescents enlarge the range of issues they regard as
personal, they think more intently about conflicts between
personal choice and community obligation
Like whether, and under what conditions, it is permissible for laws to
restrict speech, religion, marriage, childbearing, group membership, and
other individual rights
› Ex. A government should not restrict the right to an individual’s religious
views, but what about when religious views say that women should not
be allowed an education and that anyone who denounces a religion
should be put to death?
Teenagers display more subtle thinking than school-age children
on issues
When asked if it is OK to exclude a child from a peer group on the basis
of race or gender, 4th graders usually say exclusion is always unfair
› But, by 10th grade, young people, though increasingly mindful of fairness,
indicate that under certain conditions exclusion is OK
 Ex. A 10th grade girl justifies her opinion that members of an all-boys music
club should not have to allow a girl to join “It’s not nice, but it’s their club.”
As adolescents integrate personal rights with ideal reciprocity,
they demand that protections they want for themselves extend
to others
With age, adolescents are more likely to defend the government’s right
to limit the personal right to engage in risky health behaviors, such as
smoking and drinking, in the interest of the larger public group
› Ex. It endangers everyone when a person chooses to drink and drive
Similarly, teenagers are increasingly mindful of the overlap
between moral imperatives and social conventions
Eventually they realize that violating strongly held conventions can harm
others, either by inducing distress or by undermining fair treatment
› Ex. Like wearing a T-shirt to a wedding or talking out of turn at a student
council meeting
Over time, as their grasp of fairness deepens, young people
realize that many social conventions have moral implications
They are vital for maintaining a just and peaceful society
Which is a central aspect of Kohlberg’s stage 4
Moral understanding is influenced by
various factors, including child-rearing
practices, schooling, peer interaction,
and culture
 Evidence suggests that, as Kohlberg
believed, these experiences present
young people with cognitive challenges
› Which stimulate them to think about moral
problems in more complex ways
As in childhood, parenting practices associated with moral
maturity in adolescence combine warmth, exchange of ideas,
and appropriate demands for maturity
 Adolescents who are most advanced in moral understanding
have parents who engage in moral discussions, encourage
prosocial behavior, and create a supportive atmosphere by
listening sensitively, asking questions, and presenting higher-level
reasoning (AKA authoritative parenting…)
In one study, 11 year olds were asked what they though an adult would
say to justify a moral rule, such as not lying, stealing, or breaking a
› Those with warm, reasonably demanding, communicative parents were
more likely than their agemates to point to the importance of ideal
reciprocity: “You wouldn’t like it if I did it to you.”
In contrast, when parents lecture, use threats, or make sarcastic
remarks, adolescents show little or no change in moral reasoning
over time
Years of schooling is a powerful predictor of
movement to Kohlberg’s stage 4 or higher
 Higher education introduces young people
to social issues that range beyond personal
relationships to entire political or cultural
› College students who report more perspective-
taking opportunities (ex. Classes that emphasize
open discussion of opinions and friendships with
others of different cultural backgrounds) and
who indicate they have become more aware of
social diversity tend to be advanced in moral
Interaction among peers who present differing viewpoints
promotes moral understanding
 Through negotiating and compromising with agemates,
young people realize that social life can be based on
cooperation between equals rather than authority
 Interventions for improving moral understanding include
discussions and role playing of moral problems
› For interventions to be effective, young people must be highly
 Confronting, critiquing, and attempting to clarify one another’s
› And because moral development occurs gradually, many peer
interaction sessions over weeks or months typically are needed
to produce moral change
Individuals in industrialized nations move through Kohlberg’s
stages more quickly and advance to a higher level than
individuals in village societies, who rarely move beyond stage 3
One explanation is that in village societies, moral cooperation is based
on direct relations between people and does not allow for the
development of advanced moral understanding
 Which depends on appreciating the role of larger social structures, such as
laws and government
Another possible reason is that responses to moral dilemmas in collectivist
cultures are often more other-directed than in Western Europe and North
 In both village and collectivistic industrialized cultures that highly value
interdependency, statements portraying the individual as vitally
connected to the social group are common
These findings raise the question of whether Kohlberg’s highest
level represents a culturally specific way of thinking: limited to
Western societies that emphasize individualism
 At the same time, a review of over 100 studies confirmed an
age-related trend consistent with Kohlberg’s stages 1-4 across
diverse societies
A common justice morality is clearly evident in the dilemma responses of
people from vastly different cultures
A central assumption of the cognitive-developmental
perspective is that moral understanding should affect
moral action
› According to Kohlberg, mature moral thinkers realized that
behaving according to their beliefs is vital for creating and
maintaining a just social world
› Consistent with this idea, higher-stage adolescents more often
act prosocially and less often engage in cheating and other
antisocial behaviors
Yet the connection between advanced moral reasoning
and action is only modest
› Moral behavior is influenced by many factors besides cognition
 Including emotions (empathy, sympathy, guilt), individual
temperament, and a long history of experiences that affect moral
decision making
› Morality is also affected by moral self-relevance – the degree to
which morality is central to self-concept
Research has yet to identify the origins of a sense of moral
self-relevance, or how thought combines with other
influences to foster moral commitment
› Close relationships with parents, teachers, and friends may play
a vital role
 Modeling prosocial behavior and fostering morally relevant
emotions of empathy and guilt, which combine with moral
cognition to powerfully motivate moral action
› Another possibility is that just (fair) educational environments – in
which teachers guide students in democratic decision making
and rule setting, resolving disputes civically, and taking
responsibility for others’ welfare – are influential
 Such environments may be particularly important for low-SES
ethnic minority students
› Encouraging civic responsibility in young people can help them
see the connection between their personal interests and the
public interest
 An insight that may foster all aspects of morality
Religion plays an important role in resolving real-life moral
dilemmas for many people
› Nearly 2/3 of Americans report being religious
› Formal religious involvement declines in adolescence
 But teenagers who remain part of a religious community are
advantaged over nonaffiliated youths in moral values and
Factors contributing to these favorable outcomes:
› In one study, religiously involved young people were more likely
to report trusting relationships with parents, other adults, and
friends who held similar world views
› Religious education and youth activities teach concern for
others and provide opportunities for moral discussions and civic
Regardless of formal affiliation and domination, religious
institutions may be uniquely suited to foster moral and
prosocial commitments
The most radical opposition comes from researchers who –
referring to a wide variability in moral reasoning across
situations – claim that Kohlberg’s stage sequence
inadequately accounts for morality in everyday life
 They favor a pragmatic approach to morality
› They assert that each person makes moral judgments at varying
levels of maturity, depending on the individual’s context and
 Conflict over a business deal is likely to evoke stage 2 reasoning
(instrumental purpose)
 A friendship or romantic dispute stage 3 reasoning (ideal
 A breach of contract stage 4 reasoning (social-order-maintaining)
Supporters of the cognitive-developmental perspective
point out that people frequently rise above self-interest to
defend others’ rights
Early adolescence is a period of gender intensification –
increased gender stereotyping of attitudes and behavior,
and movement toward a more traditional gender identity
 Biological, social, and cognitive factors all play a role in
gender intensification
› Puberty magnifies sex differences in appearance, so teenagers
spend more time thinking about themselves in gender-linked
› Pubertal changes also prompt gender-typed pressures from
 Parents, especially those with traditional gender-role beliefs, may
encourage “gender-appropriate” activities and behavior more
than they did earlier
 And when adolescents start to date, they often become more
gender-typed as a way of increasing their attractiveness
› Cognitive changes, in particular greater concern with what
others think, make young teenagers more responsive to genderrole expectations
Gender intensification declines by middle
to late adolescence, but not all young
people move beyond it to the same
› Teenagers who are encouraged to explore non-
gender-typed options and to question the value
of gender stereotypes for themselves and
society are more likely to build an androgynous
gender identity
› Overall, androgynous adolescents, especially
girls, tend to be psychologically healthier
 More self-confident, more willing to speak their
own mind, better liked by peers, and identityachieved
Development in adolescence involves
striving for autonomy – a sense of oneself
as a separate, self-governing individual
 Teenagers strive to rely more on
themselves and less on parents for
decision making
 Nevertheless, parent-child relationships
remain vital for helping adolescents
become autonomous
Adolescent autonomy is supported by a variety of
changes within the adolescent
› Puberty triggers psychological distancing from parents
› As young people look more mature, parents give them
more independence and responsibility
› Cognitive development paves the way for autonomy:
Gradually, adolescents solve problems and make
decisions more effectively
› Improved ability to reason about social relationships leads
teenagers to deidealize their parents, viewing them as
“just people”, so they may question parental authority
But teenagers still need guidance and sometimes
protection from dangerous situations
› Autonomy is fostered by warm, supportive, parent-
adolescent ties that permit young people to explore ideas
and social roles
The rapid physical and psychological changes of adolescence
trigger conflicting expectations in parent-child relationships
A major reason is that many parents find rearing teenagers to be stressful
But parents and teenagers (especially young teenagers) differ sharply on
the appropriate age for granting certain privileges
Interest in making choices about personal matters strengthens in
 Ex. control over clothing, going out with friends, and dating
Parents’ own development can also lead to friction with
Middle-aged parents must accept that their own possibilities are
narrowing while their children’s are expanding
› Teenagers may fail to appreciate that parents value spending time
together as a family because and important period of their adult lives,
child-rearing, is coming to an end
 In other words, they don’t understand why their parents want to spend
time together as a family because their parents know that they are almost
at the end of their child-rearing days
Immigrant parents from cultures that highly value family
closeness and obedience to authority have greater difficulty
adapting to their teenagers’ push for autonomy, often reacting
more strongly to adolescent disagreement
As adolescents acquire the host culture’s language and are increasingly
exposed to its individualistic values, immigrant parents may become
even more critical, causing teenagers to rely less on the family network
for social support
› The acculturative stress adolescents may experience is associated with a
rise in deviant behavior, including alcohol use and delinquency
Throughout adolescence, the quality of parent-child relationship
is the single most consistent predictor of mental health
By middle to late adolescence, most parents and children achieve a
mature, mutual relationship, and harmonious interaction rises
The reduced time that Western teenagers spend with their
families has little to do with conflict
It is due to the large amount of unstructured time available to teenagers
in North America and Western Europe because they have fewer
obligations to overall family welfare
› And they tend to fill this time with activities away from home, including
part-time jobs
Parents who are financially secure and content with
their marriages usually find it easier to grant
teenagers appropriate autonomy and experience
less conflict with them
Teenagers who develop well despite family stresses
benefit from the same factors that fostered resilience
in earlier years
› An appealing, easygoing disposition
› A parent who combines warmth with high expectations
› Strong bonds with prosocial adults outside the family,
especially if parental supports are lacking
Sibling interactions adapt to development in
› Often becoming less intense in both positive and
negative feelings
Nonetheless, siblings who establish a positive
bond in early childhood continue to express
affection and caring
Mild sibling difference in perceived parental
affection no longer triggers jealousy
› Instead, they predict increasing sibling warmth
› Perhaps because adolescents now interpret a
unique parental relationship as a sign of their own
As adolescents spend less time with family members, peers
become increasingly important
 In industrialized nations, young people spend most of
each weekday with agemates in school
 Teenagers also spend much out-of-class time together,
more in some cultures than others
› U.S. young people have about 50 hours of free time per week
› Europeans have about 45 hours
› East Asians have about 33 hours
A shorter school year and less demanding academic
standards, which lead American youths to devote much
less time to school work, account for these differences
 Adolescent peer relations can be both positive and
› At their best, peers serve as critical bridges between the family
and adult social roles
Number of “best friends” declines from about 4-6 in early adolescence
to 1-2 in adulthood
At the same time, the nature of the relationship changes
As a result, teenage friends get to know each other better as personalities
Over time, they become more similar in these ways
Because they desire some autonomy for themselves and recognize that friends
need this too
Adolescents seek intimacy (psychological closeness), mutual
understanding of each other’s values, beliefs, and feelings, and loyalty
(sticking up for each other and not leaving them for someone else) from
their friends
Self-disclosure (sharing of private thoughts and feelings) between friends
rises steadily over the adolescent years
Adolescent friends tend to be alike in identity status, educational
aspirations, political beliefs, and willingness to try drugs and engage in
lawbreaking acts
Cooperation and mutual affirmation between friends rise in
Adolescents are less possessive of their friends than in childhood
Emotional closeness is more common between girls, who
engage in more self-disclosure than boys
Girls often get together to “just talk”
Boys more often gather for an activity (sports or competitive games) and
their discussions more often focus on accomplishments and involve more
competition and conflict
In line with gender-role expectations, girls’ friendships typically
focus on communal concerns, boys’ on achievement and status
 The quality of boys’ friendships is more variable than girls’
Gender identity plays a role: Androgynous boys are as likely as girls to
form intimate same-sex ties, but highly “masculine” boys are less likely to
do so
Closeness in friendship can have negative effects
Adolescent friends sometimes coruminate, or repeatedly mull over
problems and negative feelings, which triggers anxiety and depression,
more often in girls than in boys
› When conflicts arise between intimate friends, more potential exists for
one party to harm the other through relational aggression
 Ex. Divulging sensitive personal information to outsiders
 For this reason, girls’ closest same-sex friendships tend to be of shorter
duration than boys’
Use of the Internet to communicate, especially
through instant messaging, seems to support
friendship closeness in adolescence
Adolescents also use the Internet to meet new
› Through online ties, they explore central adolescent
issues, such as sexuality and challenges in parent and
peer relationships
› The context of the Internet may feel less threatening
than those of similar everyday conversations
Online communication also poses dangers
› Exposure to degrading racial and ethnic slurs,
sexually obscene remarks, and potentially harmful
social experiences
As long as adolescent friendships are not
characterized by jealousy, relational
aggression, or attraction to antisocial behavior,
they are related to many aspects of
psychological health and competence into
early adulthood
Close friendships:
› Provide opportunities to explore the self and develop
a deep understanding of another
› Provide a foundation for future intimate relationships
› Help young people deal with stresses of adolescence
› Can improve attitudes toward and involvement in
In early adolescence, tightly knit peer groups tend to form, which
are organized into cliques – groups of 5-7 members who are friends
and usually resemble one another in family background, attitudes,
and values
At first, cliques are limited to same-sex members
 For girls, but not boys, clique membership predicts academic and social
Clique membership is more important to girls, who use it as a context for
expressing emotional closeness
› Mixed-sex cliques are common by mid-adolescence
Often several cliques with similar values form a larger, more loosely
organized group called a crowd
Membership in a crowd is based on reputation and stereotype
 Which gives the adolescent an identity within the larger social structure of the
Typical high school crowds include “brains” (nonathletes who enjoy
academics), “jocks” (who are very involved in sports), “populars” (class
leaders who are highly social and involved in activities), “partiers” (who value
socializing but care little about school work), “nonconformists” (who like
unconventional clothing and music), and “burnouts” (who cut school and
get into trouble)
› Crowd affiliations are linked to strengths in adolescents’ self-concepts, which
reflect their interests, abilities, and family factors
Belonging to a clique or crowd can modify
adolescents’ beliefs and behavior, but
family experiences affect the extent to
which adolescents become like their peers
› In a study of 8,000 9th-12th graders
 Adolescents who described their parents as
authoritative were members of “brain,” “jock,” and
“popular” groups that accepted both adult and
peer reward systems
 Adolescent boys with permissive parents aligned
themselves with the “partiers” and “burnouts,”
suggesting lack of identification with adult reward
As interest in dating increases, boys’ and girls’ cliques
come together into mixed-sex cliques
› Which provide models for how to interact with the other
sex and a chance to do so without having to be intimate
By late adolescence, as boys and girls become
comfortable approaching each other directly, the
mixed-sex clique disappears
Crowds decline in importance as adolescents settle
on personal values and goals
› They no longer feel a need to broadcast, through dress,
language, and activities, who they are
From 10th to 12th grade, about ½ of young people
switch crowds, mostly in favorable directions
› “Brains” and “normal” crowds grow and deviant crowds
lose members as teenagers focus more on their future
With the hormonal changes of puberty, sexual interest increases, but
cultural expectations determine when and how dating begins
At age 12-14, these relationships last only briefly, but by age 16 they
continue on average for nearly 2 years
Young adolescents tend to mention recreation and achieving peer status as
reasons for dating
By late adolescence, young people are ready for greater psychological
intimacy and look for someone who offers companionship, affection,
and social support
The achievement of intimacy between dating partners typically lags
behind that of friends
Recall that according to ecological theory, early attachment bonds
lead to an internal working model, or set of expectations about
attachment figures, that guides later close relationships
Asian youths start dating later and have fewer dating partners than young people
in Western societies, which encourage romantic involvements between teenagers
from middle school on
Consistent with this idea, secure attachment to parents in infancy and childhood,
together with recollections of that security in adolescence, predicts quality of
teenagers’ friendship and romantic ties
Perhaps because early adolescent dating relationships are shallow and
stereotyped, early dating is related to drug use, delinquency, and poor
academic achievement
Gay and lesbian youths face special challenges in initiating and
maintaining visible romances
Their first dating relationships seem to be short-lived and involve little
emotional commitment, because they fear peer harassment and
› Because of intense prejudice, homosexual adolescents often retreat into
heterosexual dating
› Many have difficulty finding a same-sex partner because their
homosexual peers have not yet come out
Overall, as long as it does not begin too early, dating provides
lessons in cooperation, etiquette, and dealing with people in a
wider range of situations
Among older teenagers, close romantic ties promote sensitivity,
empathy, self-esteem, social support, and identity development
Still, about half of first romances do not survive high school
Those that do usually become unsatisfying because young people are
still forming their identities and after high school often find they have little
in common
Conformity to peer pressure is greater during adolescence than in
childhood and early adulthood
In a study of American youths, adolescents felt greatest pressure to
conform to the most obvious aspects of the peer culture
Dress, grooming, and participation is social activities
Peer pressure to engage in proadult behavior, such as cooperating with parents
and getting good grades was also strong
Research conducted in Singapore had similar outcomes, except that
peer pressure to meet family and school obligations exceeded pressure
to join in aspects of peer-culture
Early adolescents are more likely than younger or older individuals to
give in to peer pressure on day-to-day personal choices
But, parents have more impact on basic life values and educational plans
When parents are supportive and exert appropriate oversight, teenagers respect
them and usually follow their rules and consider their advice
Authoritative child rearing is related to resistance to peer pressure
Adolescents whose parents exert either too much or too little control
tend to be highly peer-oriented
They more often rely on friends for advice about their personal lives and future and
are more willing to break their parents’ rules, ignore schoolwork, and engage in
other problem behavior
Most young people move through adolescence with
little disturbance
But, some encounter major disruptions in
› Such as early parenthood, substance abuse, and school
In each instance, biological and psychological
changes, families, schools, peers, communities, and
culture combine to yield particular outcomes
Serious difficulties rarely occur in isolation
› They are usually interrelated as is apparent in 3 additional
problems of the teenage years: depression, suicide, and
Depression – feeling sad, frustrated, and hopeless about life,
accompanied by loss of pleasure in most activities and
disturbances in sleep, appetite, concentration, and energy – is
the most common psychological problem of adolescence
If allowed to continue, it seriously impairs social, academic, and
vocational functioning
About 15-20% percent of teenagers have had one or more
major depressive episodes
From 2-8% are chronically depressed
This difference in rates of depression in males and females is sustained
throughout the lifespan
Depression increases sharply from ages 12-16 in industrialized
 Teenage girls are twice as likely as boys to report persistent
depressed mood
Many adults minimize the seriousness of adolescent depression,
misinterpreting it as a passing phase
Genes can induce depression by affecting:
The balance of neurotransmitters in the brain
The development of brain regions involved in inhibiting negative emotion
The body’s hormonal response to stress
This may reflect a genetic risk that is passed from parent to child
It may also result from maladaptive parenting by the depressed parent
Experience can also activate depression, promoting any of
these biological changes
 A high incidence of depression and other psychological
disorders is seen in parents of depressed children and
Depressed youths usually display a learned-helplessness
attributional style
 In a vulnerable young person, depression can be sparked by an
event, such as failing at something important, parental divorce,
or the end of a close friendship or romantic partnership
In industrialized nations, girls are more prone to depression than
 In developing countries, rates of depression are similar for males
and females and occasionally higher in males
Because the difference in rates of depression in males and females is
limited to industrialized nations, it cannot be due to the biological
changes of puberty
Factors responsible for these gender differences include stressful
life events and gender-typed coping styles
Early maturing girls are especially prone to depression
Gender intensification in early adolescence often strengthens girls’
passivity, tendency to ruminate on problems, and dependency, which is
› Girls who repeatedly feel overwhelmed develop an overly reactive
physiological stress response and cope more poorly with challenges
› Stressful experiences and stress reactivity feed on one another, sustaining
Profound depression can lead to suicidal thoughts which all too
often are translated into action
Suicide rate increases over the lifespan, but it jumps
sharply at adolescence
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among
American youths
The adolescent suicide rate tripled between the mid1960s and the mid-1990s, followed by a slight decline
› Since 2000 the rate has been steadily increasing
Rates of adolescent suicide vary widely among
industrialized nations
› Low rates in Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain
› Intermediate in Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United
› High in Finland, New Zealand, and Singapore
These international differences remain unexplained
Despite girls’ higher rates of depression, 3-4 times as many boys as girls
kill themselves
African Americans and Hispanics have lower suicide rates than
Caucasian Americans
However, the suicide rate among African American adolescent males has risen
Native American youths commit suicide 2-6 times the national averages
Girls make more unsuccessful suicide attempts and use methods from which they
are more likely to be revived, such as a sleeping pill overdose
Boys tend to choose techniques that lead to instant death, such as firearms or
Gender-role expectations may also contribute: less tolerance exists for feelings of
helplessness and failed efforts in males than in females
Probably influenced by high rates of profound family poverty, school failure, and
alcohol and drug use
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths attempt suicide 3 times as often as
other adolescents
Largely as a result of more family conflict, inner turmoil about their sexuality, and
peer victimization
Suicide tends to occur in 2 types of young people
› Those who are highly intelligent, but solitary, withdrawn, and
unable to meet their own high standards
› Those who show antisocial tendencies and express their
unhappiness through bullying, fighting, stealing, drug abuse, and
increased risk taking
Suicidal teenagers often have family backgrounds that
include emotional and antisocial disorders, as well as a
history of stressful life events
 Cognitive changes, such as being better at planning
ahead, lead to an increase in suicide in adolescence
› Although some act impulsively, many young people take
purposeful steps toward killing themselves
› Belief in the personal fable leads many depressed adolescents to
conclude that no one could possibly understand their pain
Warning Signs of Suicide
Efforts to put personal affairs in order – smoothing over troubled relationships,
giving away treasured possessions
Verbal cues – saying good bye to family members and friends, making direct or
indirect references to suicide (“I won’t have to worry about these problems much
longer.”; “I wish I were dead.”)
Feelings of sadness, despondency, “not caring” anymore
Extreme fatigue, lack of energy, boredom
No desire to socialize; withdrawal from friends
Easily frustrated
Emotional out-bursts – spells of crying or laughing, bursts of energy
Inability to concentrate, distractible
Decline in grades, absence from school, discipline problems
Neglect of personal appearance
Sleep change – loss of sleep or excessive sleepiness
Appetite change – eating more or less than usual
Physical complaints – stomachaches, backaches, headaches
Juvenile delinquents are children or adolescents who engage in
illegal acts
 Although U.S. crime has declined since the mid-1990s, 12-17 year
olds account for about 15% of police arrests
Although they make up 8% of the population
Such as petty stealing or disorderly conduct
But, repeated arrests are cause for concern
Teenagers are responsible for 18% of violent offenses in the U.S.
A small percentage become recurrent offenders, who commit most of
these crimes, and some enter a life of crime
Almost all teenagers, when asked confidentially about
lawbreaking, admit to having committed an offense of some
sort, usually a minor crime
Delinquency rises over the early teenage years, remains high in
middle adolescence, and then declines
 For most adolescents, a brush with the law does not forecast
long-term antisocial behavior
Childhood onset of conduct problems are far more likely to
persist than conduct problems that first appear in adolescence
In adolescence, the gender gap in aggression widens: Violent
crime continues to be mostly the domain of boys
Although SES and ethnicity are strong predictors of arrests, they
are only mildly related to teenagers’ self-reports of antisocial
Girls only account for 1 in 5 adolescent arrests for violence and their
offenses are largely limited to simple assault (such as spitting or pushing)
Arrest rates reflect primarily the tendency to arrest, charge, and punish
low SES ethnic minority youths more often that their higher SES white and
Asian counterparts
Difficult temperament, low intelligence, peer rejection in
childhood, and association with antisocial peers are linked to
Families of delinquent youths tend to be low in warmth, high in conflict,
and characterized by harsh inconsistent discipline and low monitoring
 Youth crime peaks on weekdays between 2:00-8:00pm when many
teenagers are unsupervised
When children who are extremely active and impulsive (which boys are
more likely to be than girls) experience incompetent parenting,
aggression rises during childhood and leads to violent offenses in
Teenagers commit more crimes in povertystricken neighborhoods with limited
recreational and employment opportunities
and high adult crime
› In such neighborhoods, adolescents have easy
access to deviant peers, drugs, and firearms and
are likely to be recruited into antisocial gangs
 Gangs that commit the vast majority of violent
delinquent acts
› Schools in the locales typically fail to meet
students’ developmental needs
 Large classes, weak instruction, and lax
enforcement of rules increase teenagers’
inclination toward aggression and violence
Effective prevention of delinquency should start early and
take place at multiple levels to address factors that
include family relationships, parenting style, the quality of
teaching in schools, and economic and social conditions
in communities
 Many U.S. school have implemented zero tolerance
policies, which severely punish all disruptive and
threatening behavior, both major and minor, usually with
suspension or expulsion
› But, often they are implemented inconsistently: Low SES minority
students are 2-3 times more likely to be punished, especially for
minor misbehaviors
› However, no evidence exists that this approach reduced youth
aggression and other forms of misconduct
› In fact, some studies find that by excluding students from school,
zero tolerance heightens high school dropout and antisocial
Treating serious offenders requires an intensive, often
lengthy approach, also directed at the multiple
determinants of delinquency
Even these multidimensional treatments can fall short
if young people remain embedded in hostile home
lives, antisocial peer groups, and fragmented
› In a program called multisystemic therapy, therapists
combined family intervention with integrating violent
youths into positive school, work, and leisure activities and
disengaging them from deviant peers
› Compared with conventional services or individual
therapy, the intervention led to greater improvement in
parent-child relations and a dramatic and sustained drop
in number of arrests